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9 Ways to Have a More Productive Commute and Be Less Stressed

January 27, 2020

Something that’s been on my mind lately is how to have a productive commute. 

Admittedly, I haven’t been commuting regularly to work since I started a career as a creative entrepreneur and am based at home, but I will head out for meetings, errands, and dinner dates with friends from time to time.

So after hopping on buses, trains, taxis, and every other type of public transport in between, I started asking myself the question: is there a way to be productive during a commute that doesn’t involve doing more work?

In this post, I’m shooting off a few ideas for exactly that.

Can you really have a productive commute without email or phone calls? In this post, we take a look at 9 things to do to be productive when commuting.

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The Case Against Answering Emails and Doing Work Calls During Commutes

I believe time resting and relaxing is time well spent.

You don’t need to stuff every minute of every day doing something that’s perceived as traditionally productive – you know, answering email, making phone calls, checking project management tools.

In my opinion, when you can balance time for work and time for rest and play, you’re being plenty productive as is.

My view on productivity has always been from a holistic, long-term perspective. When I recommend things like ways to stay productive at work or when you’re tired, I often mean them as things to keep doing in the long-term, so that you avoid burnout and stay productive for much longer.

If we truly want to stay productive every day, then we need to clock in time to recharge, relax, and have fun. And I think we can use our commute times for exactly those things. 

So that’s what inspired me to create this post on productive things you can do during a commute that don’t involve heavy work things like email.

Want to see what I’ve come up with? Here are 9 things you can do to stay productive when commuting – without feeling like you should be working.

9 Ways to Have a Productive Commute while Being Less Stressed

Instead of reaching for your phone to power through emails in traffic or on the train, here are more productive – and restful! – ways to use that travel downtime.

Listen to a podcast you’ve been itching to catch up on

I love podcasts, and there are so many different kinds that it’s hard not to find something you’ll like. They’re arguably one of the only mediums you can consume regardless of your commute – whether you’re driving or hopping on public transport.

My personal picks are podcasts about self-development (unsurprising, I’m sure). But I’ll also listen to business and marketing podcasts, if only just to hear other entrepreneurs’ stories.

I’m also looking into serialized podcasts for the fun of it, but as of writing, I haven’t found one I liked yet.

(Side note: if you have recommendations for fiction/serialized podcasts, feel free to shoot me a comment with your suggestions down below!)

If you’re on iOS, you should have the native Podcasts app. If you’re on Android, the app Stitcher works great.


Not a fan of podcasts? Swap them for audiobooks instead!

Watch videos from some of your fave creators (as long as you’re not driving, of course)

Watching videos from your favorite creators is another good idea, especially if you’re not so keen on podcasts or audiobooks.

Sometimes during my work breaks, I’ll see a video on my social media feed that I might want to watch another time. So I’ll often save these videos for later. Most apps now have a Watch Later or Save option.

You can also swap out your usual binge-watching time at home for catching up on shows during a commute instead. (Though this only really applies if you have a longer commute about 20-30 minutes.)


Download videos or TV shows offline – YouTube and Netflix on mobile have these options.

Read a book 

Reading a book’s another good option to stay productive during a commute. 

A little disclaimer: I’ve found that the only kind of commute where I can read, though, is on a train. Everything else is a little too bumpy, and I tend to get motion sick when I read in buses or cars.

But again, if you’re really keen to keep up a reading habit, why not swap it out for an audiobook instead?

Want to see some of my recommended reads during a commute? Check them out here.


Record a voice memo 

If I’m in a car or taxi, sometimes a brilliant idea hits me, so my favorite thing to do is whip out my phone and record a voice memo. 

I prefer voice memos instead of typing because I can keep talking as ideas come. Typing things out is slower, so I often lose a thought in the middle while my fingers catch up to my brain.

Maybe you can even record mini pep talks for yourself to listen to in the future. Or send it to friends and loved ones so they get a cute voice message from you.

Meditate or do something to lift your spirits

I know a lot of people who choose to do their meditation or spiritual habits during a commute.

I once tried this out when I did frequent walks to and from an internship office many years ago, and I have to say, it worked really well to get my mind off the commute time.

You can do guided meditations from an app or just sit in silence. Just do whatever works for you, boo.

Put on some Lo-Fi 

Fun fact: the first time I listened to Lo-Fi was on a plane and I wanted background music while I read a book. I never gave it a chance until then, but when I did, boy, was I sure glad by my decision.

I love the chill sounds and beats, and it really puts you in a contemplative or focused mood. I figured it’s a cool sound to listen to during a commute, especially if you’re getting ready to show up to work or wind down after a long day.

Archive and delete low-priority emails like newsletters and email blasts 

Okay, so maybe you can open your email app during your commute, but I don’t recommend doing anything that requires a lot of involvement.

You can use the time to clear your Inbox from Spam or company-wide email blasts. Or if you follow content creators with weekly newsletters, you can take the time to catch up on reading them during a commute. (I follow several bloggers, so I love using my commute time to read their nice emails.)


List down things you’re looking forward to 

If commuting is particularly painful for you (been there, my friend), you can try to ease it a bit by making a list of things you’re looking forward to.

Maybe you’ve got a date at the end of the week? Maybe your parents are coming in to visit tonight?

Or you can think about things you’re grateful for. 

Want more ideas on kinds of lists to make? Here are 30 that I've thought of.

I believe that what we focus on increases, so I’m more than happy to suggest focusing on things that make you feel good to get your mind off a tiring work day or hectic commute.

Remember: you can be productive during a commute as long as you’re using the time to reset.


Making lists is a great way to. beat overwhelm when it comes. When you're feeling particularly antsy, check out this post on 30 different lists to make to be less stressed.


Indulge in a game 

Fun fact: this tip’s inspired by my mom, whom I often find swiping away on a Candy Crush level whenever we’re in a car or taxi. 

Some people have made the resolution to swear off “soul-sucking” apps like gaming apps for good, and good on them if they’re happier and healthier that way! 

But if you aren’t in the “addicted to gaming” camp and still enjoy the occasional Candy Crush game, maybe you can make commute time a little indulgent time.

Bonus tip: build up a case to work from home 

If working from home is something you’ve been thinking of doing (and your job can support it), you might use the commute time to build your case for why you should be able to have one or two remote working days a week.

Think about things you can tell your managers that support your case. You can mention your work setup at home or the things you’ll promise you’ll do if you work remotely.

This is a really good way to stay productive when commuting. Imagine that: you’re using the time to convince your boss why you shouldn’t be commuting as often.


When building a case to work from home more often, list down concrete ways you think this is better for you and the company.

Your boss won't be convinced unless they're absolutely sure it'll benefit you and your contributions to the company.

Should you never spend commute times answering emails or work calls?

Not necessarily. Even I have occasionally had to take a work call or respond to email in the middle of a commute. But I guarantee you, these instances are far and few in between.

Busy seasons at work happen, client emergencies are a thing. If you find yourself punching out an email reply even before you get to the office, don’t beat yourself up for it.

What matters is we no longer have this mindset of “I always have to be working, I always have to be working.”

This mindset has led me to some pretty destructive behaviors – and working during a commute was one of them. Really, I was just asking for a bad case of burnout.

So go ahead, enjoy that commute. Use it to prep yourself up for a new work day or unwind from a long one. 

Because a productive commute doesn’t have to mean stressing yourself out. Give yourself a li’l love, junebug.

What matters is we no longer have this mindset of “I always have to be working, I always have to be working.”


ABOUT Mica Gonzalez

As a champion for dream-chasers, Mica provides resources for content creators and creative entrepreneurs to design their days with more purpose, impact, and creativity.

Want to work with her one-on-one for creative and productivity coaching? Book a FREE 45-minute no-commitment call with her to see how her signature program can work for you.

Follow her on Instagram @micaangelicagonz for exclusive updates.


connect with mica:


The Most Common Distractions in Your Life and How to Eliminate Them

18 Ways to Stay Motivated and Productive at Work

How to Use Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies Framework to Manage your Passion Project

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